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Scottish Episcopal Church Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Scotland Marriage

It's the first major denomination in the U.K. to offer church marriages to same-sex couples.

The Scottish Episcopal Church has become the first major Christian denomination in the U.K. to offer church marriages to same-sex couples.

Bishops, clergy, and laypeople meeting at the church's General Synod approved the move Thursday, according to a statement on the denomination's website.

"I am very pleased for the couples who can now have their relationships recognized by the church and blessed by God," the Right Rev. John Armes, the Episcopal bishop of Edinburgh, told the BBC. "I'm also pleased for what this means about our church and the way we have been able to do this. But obviously any change like this creates pain and hurt in some as well, so as a bishop of the church I feel for them."

The church is part of the global Anglican Communion, which includes the Church of England, the U.S. Episcopal Church, and churches in many other countries. The U.S. church voted in 2015 to make its full marriage rite available to same-sex couples, for which it was sanctioned by Anglican leaders. The head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop of Canterbury in the U.K., opposes allowing same-sex couples to marry in the church, as do Anglican leaders in many conservative countries. And some conservative congregations in the U.S. have left the Episcopal Church and affiliated with other Anglican bodies because of objections to the U.S. denomination's LGBT-accepting stances, including ordination of gay and lesbian bishops.

The Scottish church is already facing some opposition from the Anglican hierarchy and conservative elements within Anglicanism. Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, called the Scottish body's move "a departure from the faith and teaching upheld by the overwhelming majority of Anglican provinces on the doctrine of marriage," according to the BBC.

Archbishop Foley Beach, who heads the Anglican Church in North America, a group of more conservative congregations, also denounced the Scottish vote. "The attempt to redefine marriage is not one that a faithful Christian can support," he told the BBC. And the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference appointed a new "missionary bishop" to Scotland in light of the vote.

Officials with the Scottish church said clergy who wish to perform same-sex marriages will have to opt in, and no clergy member will be forced to officiate at such a marriage.

LGBT rights supporters said they hope the Church of England will follow Scotland's lead. "I'm thrilled that the Scottish Episcopal church has chosen to take this brave and momentous step in enabling same-sex marriage," Jayne Ozanne, a lesbian who has campaigned for LGBT equality within the Church of England, told The Guardian. "This has been done in a graceful and sensitive way, recognizing the differing views on how we interpret scripture, and is a model for others to follow."

British Christian musician Vicky Beeching tweeted, "Come on Church of England, we need you to watch & learn from Scotland's bold step today. Hoping for that change someday soon."

Also, the Church of Scotland -- a separate denomination that has common roots with the Presbyterian Church (USA) -- may soon approve church marriages for same-sex couples, according to the BBC.

Civil marriage for same-sex couples has been legal in Scotland since 2014 and in England and Wales since 2013. The remaining component country of the U.K., Northern Ireland, still has not legalized same-sex marriage.

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